Pakistan: Clash of the titans

The ruling of the Supreme Court in the Asghar Khan case [in which a former army chief and a former chief of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have been found guilty of rigging the 1990 general elections] has laid bare the burgeoning intrinsic conflicts between and within the most vital institutions of the Pakistani state, the titans, the political executive, military establishment and the judiciary.

The judgement reprimands the ISI for doling out millions to the right-wing and religious politicians and parties to forge the IJI (Islamic Democratic Alliance) to defeat the PPP in the 1990 elections.

The verdict names Generals heading the Army and the ISI as perpetrators of this act. This is unprecedented in the country’s history and shows the process of internal dissent, organic decay and erosion of the state due to the crumbling economy and disintegrating society due to the crisis of Pakistani capitalism. The state which is trying to impose all this is now itself being afflicted by the ramifications of this diseased system.

With a pathetic growth rate of less than 2 percent and record deficits from budget to trade, the state of the official or the formal economy is a disaster. According to a latest study of the FBR, “The informal economy has already gone beyond $100 billion which is more than half of the total economy... this black economy has been growing at the rate of nine percent from 1977 to 2000. It grows along with growth in corruption, speed money, smuggling, narcotics, government contracts and tax evasion.”

The growth of the black economy in the subsequent years in all probability would be much higher. The Economic Survey of Pakistan, 2011-2012 says the following, “The informal economy plays an important and sometimes controversial role. It provides jobs but in many cases they are low paid. This economy employs 73.8 per cent of Pakistan’s total labour force and hence is the largest employer in the country.” While the bulk of the economy is unauthenticated, non-documented and unaccounted for, the formal economy is forayed by spiralling imperialist debt servicing and the military and the state apparatus. Less than 10 percent of GDP is for health, education, infrastructure, running of the government, etc.

Although the black economy is not under state control it does play a crucial role in the policies of the state and the politics of the ruling classes. In a situation of social stagnation this black money decides party manifestos and policies. It buys political power and status, popularity through the media, cosy posts in the state apparatus, lucrative contracts and deals, loyalties and affiliations, law and justice through astronomical fees of the top lawyers and what not. Without its eradication a “healthy” bourgeois democratic society cannot materialize.

The reality is that the nascent Pakistani bourgeoisie was historically so belated and in such economic and financial dearth that it neither had the means nor the will to complete the national democratic revolution. The rates of profits they yearned for could not be achieved under a “normal” capitalist regime through manufacturing, mechanised agriculture or even the services sector. Hence the intrusion of criminality and plunder of the state resources in businesses was a necessity for the debilitated Pakistani capitalism to sustain the privileges and profits of the corrupt and intransigent ruling classes. In other words these illicit methods of generating this black money were inevitable in the evolutionary patterns and methods of capitalism in this country. But now the reality is that this “informal” economy has become a malignant tumour in the body politic of Pakistan. It has metastasized to such an extent that it is enmeshed with the capitalist system itself and cannot be separated from it.

Although the economic catastrophe is the most crucial factor in the decline of society, this social decay is nauseatingly conspicuous in the degeneration of art, culture, ethics, morality, attitudes, behaviour, manners and social relations of this tragic society. One of the most lucrative beneficiaries of this black money is the mullah aristocracy and the fundamentalist outfits. They are also the most ardent defenders of this parasitic economic edifice. Even the official figures reveal that it was in the late seventies when this tumour began to rapidly grow.

However, the Dr. Frankenstein of this monster was none other than US imperialism. The Afghan Jihad was financed by the narcotics trade and other criminal acts designed in its strategy by the CIA. The ISI was merely its executioner that later became the possessor of this dirty money that has now permeated the country’s economy and society.

The social and political implications of all this have been devastating. The neo-Islamic fundamentalism evolved around this dollar jihad of black money. The mushrooming of madrassas and centres of fanatical indoctrination created a large segment of youth who are trained and envenomed to kill and maim in the name of religion. The social life not just of women and minorities has been traumatised but also the whole society is suffering from the suffocation of this religious subjugation. The reality is that this social hegemony of reactionary obscurantism is fragile and has very little mass support. They are in a tiny minority of the 190 million inhabitants of this land.

Their social existence is only due to the rotten economic and social policies of the liberal and secular political elite who are voted by the masses for a change but in power carry on with the devastating capitalist policies that further pummel the lives of the already impoverished masses. When weakened they revert to religion without the slightest hesitation. The despair and dread that ensues retards the class struggle and a vacuum evolves where these mercenaries of black capital wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. This vicious cycle is now convulsing the state with the intrinsic conflicts exploding and dragging society into a downward spiral. The socio-economic conditions will only deteriorate in a perspective of a worsening crisis of capitalism. However, the conflicts within the state apparatus can also converge on to class lines as the contradictions in the foundations of its edifice are sharper as never before. But the class revolt against the state will only erupt when the class struggle in society reaches a stage where a revolutionary victory becomes a real possibility on the horizon. Fredrick Engels said more than a hundred years ago that after a century mankind will be faced by clear choices—Socialism or Barbarism. The working classes have no other option but to fight to overthrow this system for their salvation and the survival of civilisation.